These past two weeks have been filled with endless conversations about living life so that it’s fulfilling. I’d like to point out that each of these conversations was with someone new, who had no idea what had been said by the person who came before them. It was purely coincidental. But it was enough to make me think. And that was enough to make me want to write this.
Although I’ve been blessed with parents who remind me often to pursue my passions, follow my dreams and not to worry about the opinions of others, there have always been people in my life who made me believe there is only one way to live a fulfilled life.
- Get an education in a suitable field.
- Find a suitable job with a high salary.
- Get married and become the perfect wife.
- Have children and become the perfect mother.
- Look after the house and the family, all while having a fulltime job.
And all of this by the time you’re twenty-six.
Well, I am twenty-six, and I check off… well, none of those things.
I’m educated, yes. I’ve both a bachelor and master’s in arts. I also have two diplomas and am working to get my third. But they’re in creative fields – perfect for someone as creative as I am but not suitable according to at least 60% of the people in my life.
Why aren’t they suitable?
Because they haven’t given me that job with a high salary. Where I’m expected to be earning six figures a year, I’m earning four. It’s funny, when people hear this I immediately get the “you should work in Tesco and work your way up to manager” speech.
And then you have marriage. I haven’t found a man whom I can stand being around for more than a few brief hours, so there goes that bullet point, and the whole perfect mother one beneath it.
But I look after my family the best that I can. Oh wait. No. Not according to the outside world. I don’t drive – it makes my anxiety spike – so I can’t do the weekly grocery shop or take anyone to hospital appointments. Do I cook? One out of ten times. I’m normally still working at dinner time and when I go downstairs it’s already done.
Yes. Working. On that job that earns me far less than the suitable job.
So what do I do? Do I even look after the house and the family?
So I don’t live life as I’m meant to. As I’m expected to.
On Tuesday, I returned from an eight-day business trip to Edinburgh. I’m no stranger to Edinburgh – I visit friends and family there at least once a year – but this trip was filled with back-to-back meetings with clients and getting work done. Towards the end of my trip, however, my sister and I went out for breakfast. “You live a very fulfilled life,” she randomly said. “You’re earning money, you’re writing, you’re seeing the world and you’re looking after mum and dad.”
You live a very fulfilled life.
For someone who is constantly reminded that I’m doing the exact opposite, you can see how hard this is for me to believe. Especially coming from the person who had, a few days before, told me off because she thought that I was suggesting quitting social media managing (which is earning me money) to focus on my writing (which isn’t).
Then I came home to these conversations.
I came home to a friend leaving the country now her visa is expiring, unable to live the same style of life she was living here in the UK. To another friend, hunting for a new job, desperate to move out from where she currently is and start a new adventure. To a third, struggling to balance school and work and her passion all while maintaining her health and still playing the role of wife, daughter, sister and friend. To a fourth, forced to make one job work because her other fell through, while being a single mum whose children want for nothing. To a fifth, soon to leave university, with no idea what job she can do with her degree or whether she wants to stay or leave the UK.
This quickly led to me thinking about the lives of the other people in my life. The ones who chose careers over families. Single parenting over marriage. Animals over children. Charity over profit. Travel over home.
Are we all living life in unfulfilling ways?
Or is everyone with these expectations just plain wrong?
I have an education. A brilliant education. I know about film and literature and writing and photography. And I’m still learning! It’s taking me a while, but I’m learning with every second I spend on this cognitive behavioural therapy diploma.
I have a brilliant job. It may not pay as well as a job in Tesco in the long run, but it holds my interest and I’ve clients I adore – it’s taken me a long time to find someone who tells me ‘family comes first’ instead of ‘you better meet the deadline’ if I’ve an emergency that takes me away from my desk. And, best of all, it gives me the chance to pursue to my passion. It gives me time to write!
I’m going on adventures! I get to see the world AND explore the city I’ve called home my entire life with some incredible friends who understand. What do they understand? God knows! Nothing! Something! Everything!
And, best of all, I get to spend time with the people I love most. My parents. My sisters. I can watch my nieces and nephews grow up. I can be the ear that listens when friends and family need to talk. The shoulder they cry on. The warm arms that squeeze them when they need a hug.
That doesn’t sound like an unfulfilled life to me. So my sister is right. I do lead a very fulfilling life. Perhaps a far more fulfilling life than had I been checking off those bullet points.
And you know what? If you look at your own life, I’m pretty sure you’ll realise you do too.